The Definition of Law


Law is a set of rules that governs behavior in society. It is an important factor in politics, economics and history and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

The word law has many different meanings, including: legislation; decrees; regulations; statutes; precepts; ordinances; canons; and legal codes. The precise definition of law is a longstanding topic of debate.

Constitutional law defines the rules that are enforceable by a nation-state or other authority, such as the Supreme Court. It is based on written or tacit contracts, and the rights encoded within them.

State-enforced laws can be made by a group legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes; by the executive through decrees and regulations; or established by judges through precedent, usually in common law jurisdictions.

Privately-enforceable laws are created by private individuals or corporations and are often based on contract. They can cover all kinds of property, such as land, movable objects and intangible rights.

Real property refers to ownership of land, while personal property covers movable objects. The two categories are distinguished by the right to rem (a right to a particular thing) and the right to personam (a right that allows compensation for a loss, but not a specific thing back).

The rule of law is essential to the development of societies. It ensures that citizens have access to services and resources, curbs corruption, limits the abuse of power, and enables social cohesion. It is a central principle of international peace and security, and is also critical to the attainment of human rights.

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